There’s plenty of stunt-racers for avid game fans to choose from, and that’s especially true for online casual fans. This is also becoming increasingly true for the iPhone OS, too, as many casual developers are looking to strike it rich in porting their fare to one of the fastest-growing platforms out there. Already popular in the wide world of online gaming, developer SPIL Games brings their horizontal racing sensation to the iPhone and iPod Touch with Uphill Rush 2, complete with over twelve different vehicles to choose from (including skateboards, scooters, cars, and more) and many other customizable features and social-networking additions. You’d think the combination of popular stunt-racer + portable format would be solid gold, but the results often feel like oily sludge…
Like most online games that have been ported to the platform Uphill Rush 2 takes advantage of the iPhone’s built-in accelerometer and touchscreen controls, with streamlined controls in the shape on onscreen arrows. and should feel pretty familiar to fans of Nintendo’s Excitebike series. The left arrow bends you backward, the right arrow bends you forward, up is for acceleration and down is for braking. The muffler button will give you a small speed burst, and shaking the iPhone itself will let your vehicle-of-choice jump. As you can imagine, the real trick is using these virtual commands in different combinations and circumstances for the highest scores and to net as many gold coins as possible.
Snagging every gold coin would be tricky enough, but the game’s controls don’t always respond as they should, as they seem to overcompensate for their lack of physicality (i.e. keyboard buttons) by upping their sensitivity. It also doesn’t help that jumping is mapped to a motion-controlled mechanic (shaking) as this tends to further obscure what’s happening on the screen and only further complicate things. Things move pretty quickly in Uphill Rush 2, and you don’t always have the luxury of seeing what’s just in front – and just out of – your line of sight. I understand that the game isn’t about strict racing, but when you factor in a smaller viewing size + thumbs covering space + lack of peripheral vision, the results aren’t always that pretty.
Level design had me falling down almost every time I tried. Going straight through a level is nigh impossible because you don’t know what might be coming in front of you. This lack of vision in front of you means you die a lot and it’s not always because of the reaction time; it’s the controls. I crashed frequently, flipped over while I was trying to straighten out because of the overly sensitive controls. At least the game knew it was bad and knew it was hard and told you so. It didn’t expect you to get more than 10 feet without falling on your face.
The game looks fine, with nicely animated characters and models that are easy to distinguish from the bright and nicely detailed backgrounds that quickly speed by. I was surprised to see such an accomplished physics engine at work here, and this really does give the game (at least its visuals) a very polished and professional feel throughout. The stock soundtrack was suitable, and the game even allows you to pipe in your own songs if you feel like it. Facebook Connect is available for those looking to share their high-scores with the world, or at least their online friends.
SPIL Games bring their popular online series to the iPhone and iPod Touch with Uphill Rush 2, although something feels lost in the translation. Those fans who’ve mastered the online – and free – version of the game will need to completely adjust how they play, as the game’s newly-implemented touchscreen and motion-controls will take some time getting used to, and even then they won’t be for everyone. At times overly sensitive, they often feel like a crude compromise between the original’s keyboard buttons, with tacked-on shaking thrown in simply because they could. Let it be a lesson that not every game web game transfers easily over to the iPod format. Definitely check out the free lite-version before buying this one.
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